UN Security Council demands halt to siege of Sudan’s al-Fashir

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The United Nations Security Council on Thursday demanded a halt to the siege of al-Fashir - a city of 1.8 million people in Sudan’s North Dafur region - by the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and an immediate end to fighting in the area.

The 15-member council adopted a British-drafted resolution that also calls for the withdrawal of all fighters that threaten the safety and security of civilians in al-Fashir, the last big city in the vast, western Darfur region not under RSF control.

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War erupted in Sudan in April last year between the Sudanese army (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), creating the world’s largest displacement crisis.

Al-Fashir is the last major city in the vast, western Darfur region not under control of the RSF. The RSF and its allies swept through four other Darfur state capitals last year and were blamed for a campaign of ethnically driven killings against non-Arab groups and other abuses in West Darfur.

Top UN officials warned the Security Council in April that some 800,000 people in Al-Fashir were in “extreme and immediate danger” as worsening violence advances and threatens to “unleash bloody intercommunal strife throughout Darfur.”

The draft Security Council resolution “demands that all parties to the conflict ensure the protection of civilians, including by allowing civilians wishing to move within and out of Al-Fashir to safer areas to do so.”

It also calls on countries “to refrain from external interference which seeks to foment conflict and instability and instead to support efforts for a durable peace and reminds all parties to the conflict and member states who facilitate the transfers of arms and military material to Darfur of their obligations to comply with the arms embargo measures.”

The US says the warring parties have committed war crimes and the RSF and allied militias have also committed crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing. The UN says that nearly 25 million people - half Sudan’s population - need aid and some eight million have fled their homes and hunger is rising.

Between 10,000 and 15,000 people were killed in one city alone in Sudan’s West Darfur region last year in ethnic violence by the RSF and allied Arab militia, according to a UN sanctions monitors report, seen by Reuters in January.

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